Every year it’s the same deal. On 1st January, a few hours after midnight, we dream of accomplishing miracles: quitting smoking, starting to exercise or maybe eating healthier… And 365 days later, this goals inevitably end up going down the drain. Is this through lack of will, time or money? Actually, it’s none of those things. According to science, your goal might be just a bit too ambitious.
‘It’s decided, this year, I’m going to start exercising’, ‘Oh, it’s not that hard… I’m going to quit smoking!’ The twelve strokes of midnight have barely struck and each one of us comes up with our little resolutions for the next 365 days. But after a few weeks – sometimes even just a few hours -, the majority of these goals end up going down the drain.
A psychologist Richard Wiseman brought together around 3,000 volunteers to effectively quantify the success of their new year resolutions. And the results show that only 12% of the subjects in this study actually reached their goal… But whose fault is it? It’s not really their fault, but their brains, who play really mean and vicious games on them!
As researchers at the European business school INSEAD discovered, our brain is more willing to take on a more reasonable goal, than the very simple goal of not changing anything. Counter intuitive, and yet scien-ti-fic!
Researchers at INSEAD explained that if progressive change is small enough, the brain jumps at the easy-to-achieve opportunity and concludes that the goal is simple. But if there is no indication of where to go or how to achieve it – as is the case when the goal is simply to maintain the status quo – the brain turns to the next best thing: context.
Then, a negative bias settles in and the brain starts to think about all the things that could possible derail this predetermined project and acts in this way so as to prevent the same results from being reproduced. Therefore, the goal isn’t actually so simple.
Little cause, big effects!
From what experts are saying, it’s better to go for a more reasonable goal for throughout the year instead of no goal at all. But what’s the point in choosing a goal that’s almost pointless? And yet, it is proved that the effects of having and achieving a resolution, as small as they may be, can be a lot more powerful than you think.
One example among so many. Make a (new?) new year’s resolution to take up knitting. The expected benefit would be creating some beautiful things and exploring this further, adopting wool and needles has more advantages than it seems.
‘One stitch over, one stitch under,’ and then you end up speeding through it with so much concentration, patience, serenity and above all dexterity. Beautiful cherries on the cake as well as the collection of scarves and hats that you could have made yourself… Conclusion: ‘This year, I’ve decided to take up knitting!’